Twitter has rejected Elon Musk’s claims in court that he had legitimate reasons to back out of a $44bn deal to purchase the social media platform, marking the latest development in a dramatic legal showdown.
In a filing made public on Thursday, Twitter called Musk’s arguments for abandoning the deal “a story, imagined in an effort to escape a merger agreement that Musk no longer found attractive once the stock market and along with it, his massive personal wealth, declined in value”.
Twitter sued Musk last month to force him to complete the deal, and the company’s filing on Thursday comes in response to Musk’s own counter lawsuit, which he filed under seal last week and which is due to be made public on Friday.
The current standoff began after Musk claimed Twitter was not forthcoming about the problem with spam bots on the platform, citing it as his reason for abandoning the deal. The social media firm had claimed spam accounts made up less than 5% of more than 200 million users but Musk insisted that the number was higher and accused Twitter of withholding information on the problem. Twitter, meanwhile, has accused Musk of “conjuring” the issue to escape the deal without penalty.
“The counterclaims are a made-for-litigation tale that is contradicted by the evidence and common sense,” Twitter’s response says, according to legal documents obtained by Reuters. “Musk invents representations Twitter never made and then tries to wield, selectively, the extensive confidential data Twitter provided him to conjure a breach of those purported representations.”
At the same time, the response says, Musk also accused Twitter of breaching their agreement by “stonewalling” his information requests. Twitter denies this and says information was provided when requested.
Attorneys for Musk had wanted to file a public version of their answer and counterclaims in Delaware court on Wednesday. But Twitter attorneys complained that they needed more time to review and potentially redact Musk’s sealed filing, saying it refers “extensively” to internal Twitter information and data given to Musk.
Musk, the world’s richest man, agreed in April to buy Twitter and take it private, offering $54.20 a share and vowing to loosen the company’s policing of content and to root out fake accounts. But Musk said in July that he wanted to back out of the deal, prompting the current legal drama.
Either Musk or Twitter would be entitled to a $1bn breakup fee if the other party is found responsible for the agreement failing. Twitter wants more, however, and is seeking a court order of “specific performance” directing Musk to follow through with the deal.
Reuters contributed reporting